Syndrome X Update

By Stephen Holt, M.D., MRCP, FRCP (C), FACP, FACG, FACN, FACAM, Physician

Americans have learned to fear tragic diseases such as AIDS and cancer. Many of them are taking action to prevent their occurrence. Meanwhile, more and more people are attempting to follow �fad� diets to lose weight, improve their appearance and improve their overall health. Yet they remain relatively complacent about the number one killer constellation of problems known as Syndrome X.

This sinister term describes the variable combination of obesity, high blood cholesterol, rising blood pressure and resistance to the hormone insulin. Unfortunately, Western society has largely accepted these conditions as an inevitable consequence of aging. Retrospective National Health Nutritional Survey data from the period of 1988 to 1994 estimated that 47 million Americans suffered from Syndrome X, while the current prevalence of this syndrome may now be as much as 25 percent of the adult population (70 million).

So common and pernicious are the negative health outcomes of the metabolic Syndrome X that it qualifies as the primary health initiative facing several Western societies. But does that mean it is inevitable? Nothing could be further from the truth.

However, the problems discussed within Syndrome X do not respond to quick fixes such as the popular Atkins-like low-carbohydrate diets. Many people can shed a few pounds in the short-term, but few obese individuals maintain their weight-loss targets. Studies show that even the promises of the Atkins lifestyle are shattered by common weight regain after six months or so. Weight gain following the Atkins Diet and other low-carbohydrate diets are almost inevitable if the programs are discontinued. Therefore, new fad diets and weight-loss tricks continue to emerge with regularity, as do new cases of significant obesity.

Hopefully, as many dieters discover the limitations of such quick fixes, more people will embrace the kind of multifaceted approach that is designed to impact all cardinal components of the disorder. Current pharmaceutical and surgical approaches for the management of Syndrome X possess many disadvantages and limitations. Typical allopathic treatments may have been too focused on individual components of Syndrome X and they tend to form only a �back-up plan� for management.

In contrast, natural approaches with lifestyle modification and/or nutraceutical interventions may provide versatile and powerful first-line management options.

These options include:
Lifestyle change , with specific avoidance of substance abuse, including smoking cessation, reduced caffeine and simple sugar intake.
Behavior modification. Change eating patterns and amounts. Extinguishing adverse lifestyle.
Exercise � matched to the level of aerobic fitness; medical or professional training advice recommended.
Diet, reduced in simple sugars, salt and saturated fat with controlled protein intake and more liberal healthy fats, e.g. fish oil (EPA).
Syndrome X Nutritional Factors�, oat beta glucan, antioxidants from berries, alpha lipoic acid, chromium picolinate with biotin, vanadium, phaseolum (Phase 2), anti-homocysteine vitamins and low glycemic index properties

These options are discussed in greater detail in the books, �Nutritional Factors for Syndrome X� (Holt S, Wright JV, Taylor TV with Holt F, Wellness Publishing, N.J., 2003); and �Combat Syndrome X, Y and Z �� (Holt S, Wellness Publishing, N.J., 2002).


One may be impressed by the variety of remedies of natural origin which have a known role in the combat against Syndrome X. The glucocolloid fraction of soluble oat fiber containing beta glucans and other soluble fibers form the most versatile substrates that are currently available to make dietary supplements and functional foods that may be beneficial. The elements chromium, vanadium and maitake appear to play important roles in the actions of insulin and mounting evidence indicates that they are valuable natural approaches to combat Syndrome X.

A more indirect approach is the use of antioxidants with specific benefits in the development of advanced glycation end products (AGES). These antioxidants include alpha lipoic acid and perhaps mixed bioflavanoids. Soy protein and active forms of omega 3 fatty acids also prevail as beneficial. The whole issue of elevations of blood homocysteine is not accounted for in many discussions of Syndrome X, but nutritional approaches to address this issue, with vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid, are seen as increasingly valuable.

Several more dynamic and valuable dietary supplements and functional foods have emerged with the basic component of the beta-glucan extract of soluble fiber ( U.S. patent 6,060,519) to which can be added alpha lipoic acid and chromium with added vitamins that reduce blood and homocysteine levels. More innovative products contain suitable forms of active omega 3 fatty acids, while soy protein may assist in the fight against diabetes and Syndrome X.

I believe that these nutritional �cocktails,� in the form of dietary supplements, will form a solid, natural approach to combat Syndrome X. Pilot open-label clinical experiences have produced exciting individual reports of weight loss, substantial reductions in serum cholesterol and reductions in the need for medications directed at the treatment of the individual components of Syndrome X.

Given the current lack of availability of versatile and safe pharmaceuticals to address more than individual components of Syndrome X, the integrated approaches outlined in this article, using behavioral medicine and nutritional principles, may be the most attractive first-line option for the combat against Syndrome X.

About the author: Stephen Holt, M.D., is founder and president of Nature’s Benefit, Newark , N.J. Contact: [email protected]

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